Object From Solomon’s Temple Recovered -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 04:2 (Spring 1991)
Article: Object From Solomon’s Temple Recovered
Author: Bryant G. Wood

Object From Solomon’s Temple Recovered

Bryant G. Wood

Ivory pomegranate bearing an 8th century BC Hebrew script. It is the only known object attributed to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Solomon’s Temple (sometimes referred to as the “First Temple”) was Israel’s central place of worship for about 380 years, from its construction in ca 970 BC until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. We know approximately where the remains are—somewhere beneath the present-day platform upon which the Dome of the Rock and El-Aqsa mosques are located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Since the area is holy to Muslims, excavation is not permitted; thus it has not been possible to examine the remains of Solomon’s temple firsthand. In spite of this limitation, it appears that now, for the first time, an object from Solomon’s Temple has come to light.

The artifact, a small ivory pomegranate, was first noticed in an antiquities shop in Jerusalem by French scholar Andre Lemaire in 1979. He published a scholarly description of his find in 1981 and a popular version in 1984 (see references). It was subsequently purchased and taken out of the country. But in 1988 the pomegranate was purchased by the Israel Museum, where it is now on display. This unique object is just under 1 3/4 inches (43 mm) tall and a little over 3/4 inch (21 mm) in diameter. It has a rounded body tapering toward a flat bottom pierced by a hole. The neck is narrow and tall and terminates in six petals, two of which are broken. Its shape is that of a pomegranate in its blossom stage of growth. A mature pomegranate, in contrast, is globular, with a crown of short petals.

With its bright red color, sweet juicy fruit and multitudinous seeds, the

pomegranate was a common symbol of fertility in antiquity. It was widely used as a motif in the sacred and secular art of various cultures throughout the ancient Near East. A number of examples in round and representational art have been recovered in archaeological excavations. The pomegranate (rimmon in Hebrew) is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament and is included among the seven fruits common in Israel (Dt 8:7–8).

There are two specific references to pomegranates in connection with Solomon’s Temple. First, the capitals of the two columns in front of the temple (named Jachin and Boaz) were decorated with a chain of hundreds of pomegranate-shaped links (1 Kgs 7:15–22, 41–42; You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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